Angler with biggest Calaveras redfish tells how to
beat his record.
by John Goodspeed
Fishing guides can be as secretive as the CIA when it comes to revealing where and how to catch fish.
But Manny Martinez, who holds the red drum record at Calaveras Lake, wants someone to knock him off his perch — and he’s telling everyone how to do it.
Now is the perfect time, too, with the fall spawn drawing thousands of redfish near the rocks at the dam, with the peak in October and the season going through mid-November.
“I’m not too far from retiring and I want to help other anglers, especially younger anglers,” said Martinez, who has been guiding at Calaveras and Braunig Lake since 1979. “I want them to hear from an old-timer, a professional guide from my generation, so the next generation can have fun in the future. Maybe a young kid will read this story and be inspired to a lifetime of fishing.”
He was out by himself for about six hours on Oct. 23, 2008, and ready to call it a day when he spied an oily slick from feeding redfish regurgitating next to the rocks at the dam.
“I casted right on top of it and counted to about 15 to let the lure sink, cranked twice and — pow! — he hit and I set the hook,” Martinez recalled. “It struck hard like any other big red. He took the line straight out.”
The fish would have stripped all the line off the spool if Martinez had not followed it with the trolling motor during the 25-minute fight. It swam around the boat twice and finally right into Martinez’s net. The handle broke as he lifted it in.
“It was a huge fish, but I was fixing to throw him back,” he said. “What caught my eye was its girth. I decided to put him in the live well and take him in. They weighed him and told me it was the lake record.”
The male redfish was 30 pounds, 41 inches long and had a 27-inch girth.
Today the mount hangs in Martinez’s family living room.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department compiles records by weight. The current state record for freshwater redfish was 36.83 pounds, 44 inches taken at Lake Fairfield on May 22, 2001.
Braunig’s record of 31.87 pounds, 41 inches was set on Aug. 22, 2010.
John Goodspeed is a freelance outdoors writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using a variety of different colored spoons is recommended, such as Manny’s Silver Spoon (from left) and Manny’s Copper Spoon — both creations of fishing guide Manny Martinez and available at fishingwithmanny.com — and the Cotton Cardell in gold and Cabela’s Casting Spoon in nickel. (John Goodspeed / For the Express-News)
Manny Martinez caught his whopper redfish at Calaveras on a Magic Spoon on 12-pound test line with an Abu Garcia Revo S bait-casting reel on a 7-foot, medium heavy rod that no longer is manufactured. But what works one day may not the next, so he shares the following methods refined over more than three decades of guiding:
Recommended gear: A Shakespeare Ugly Stick 7-foot, medium-heavy rod; your choice of bait-casting or spin-casting reel (he likes a Shimano bait-casters and Daiwa spin-casters); and 14- or 17-pound Cajun Line Red.
Set drag: Wrap line around one hand and tug it while adjusting it so line pulls out easy enough to not break when a big fish strikes. A big red also can bend a hook and get free if the drag is too tight.
Slick details: Find the fish with a depth finder or look for slicks on the water and cast into them. Slicks give off an odor similar to watermelon, so use your nose, too.
Life cycle: In October through mid-November, expect females to be laying eggs near the rocks on the dam with males in the area. Freshwater reds do not reproduce but they go through the motions.
Depth: Vary depth of lure before retrieving by counting to five or 10 before reeling. If there are no bites after numerous tries, count to 15, 20 and so on to allow the lure to settle deeper.
Reel tips: Change retrieval, too — slow, medium and fast — at the different depths. Try jerking a couple of times to see if the fish prefer bait going up and down.
Lures: Change colors. Spoons always are good. Try silver, gold, gold/copper, chrome blue and chartreuse. “Anybody out there should have every color you can think of,” Martinez said. The Bomber Slab Spoon is hot now in a variety of colors from a half-ounce to an ounce. “Sometimes they want something big. Sometimes they want something small,” he said.
No strikes? Swap the lure for a different color and try again at the different depths.
No plastics: Do not use plastic worms. Spoons have more action and flash.
Hooks: To reduce the possibility of a big red straightening a hook, replace hooks that come with lures with a No. 5 treble by Mustad or VMC.
Whatever works best: When a combination begins producing fish, stay with it. “You will find fish, but I can’t guarantee you’ll hook the big one,” Martinez said.
Did you know?
Clients have come close to Martinez’s record, with a 27-pounder last year and one weighing 28 pounds in 2010. “We picked up a few 25-pounders in the summer, but the spawning is starting now, and it’s on fire,” he said. “Redfish bigger than mine are still out there. We’ve seen them. The way to beat the record is to be out there every day.”
• Call Manny Martinez of L&M Guide Service at 210-386-6695 or go online at fishingwithmanny.com